19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. 20 For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. 21 For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22 But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel. 23 I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me, 24 and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also. 25 I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, 26 for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. 28 I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. 29 So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, 30 for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me. (Philippians 2:19-30)
We have been talking over the last few weeks about spiritual friendships. In this paragraph from verse 19 through verse 30 we see examples of those who chose to be involved in other people’s lives in very significant ways, in very beneficial ways. That is what we have seen for the most part, but there is also in this paragraph a mention of those who chose not to involve themselves with others as beneficial spiritual friends. They were apparently believers, but they chose a different route. These are found in verse 21 and are described as those who seek their own interests, not the interests of Jesus Christ. The one way mentioned in this paragraph that we can falter as spiritual friends is to be self-focused.
It is hard to love others in Christ while loving self. And so God calls us away from a love of self and calls us to love Him and love one another. Think about it in a practical way in your life, think carefully about your last conflict. Think about the last time you were in the middle of a conflict with another person. It may have been this morning, last night, last week, whenever it was. Maybe the other person wasn’t even aware that there was conflict, maybe it was just conflict you kept inside. But for you it was real, you were angry, upset, frustrated in your relationship. What was that conflict about? Now let me ask, who in that moment were you loving most? Who were you most concerned about? Whose needs or desires were you considering first? Chances are it was self.
“I wanted something that I was not getting. I desired something from you that you were not giving me. I want, desire, long for, and I am not getting, so I open the door, and what enters is conflict.” And significant, beneficial spiritual friendships go right out the door. We make a choice: to love others, to build them up, to point them to Christ, or we choose to please self. True spiritual friends have an eye on their neighbor, a concern for others, all with and flowing from a love for Jesus Christ.
This morning we will continue this theme of spiritual friendship by looking at verses 22-24:
22 But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel. 23 I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me, 24 and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also. (Philippians 2:22-24)
We see several things here regarding spiritual friendships:
1. The dedication of Christian friends
2. The familial nature of Christian friends
3. The servanthood of Christian friends
4. The shared goal of Christian friends
5. The sharing of one another with Christian friends
6. The fellowship of Christian friends
We will cover the first two this morning, and Lord willing the last four next week.
I would like for each of us to really put ourselves in this text. What I mean is that each of us should honestly look at ourselves and ask, “Are we being Christian, spiritual friends to one another?”
Paul begins in verse 22 by apparently telling the Christians in Philippi something that they already knew. He says, “But you know Timothy’s proven worth…” Timothy had a reputation among his Christian brothers and sisters. Paul did not have to send Timothy’s resume to the church at Philippi. He didn’t have to convince them of who he was or what he was like. They all knew of his proven worth.
Proven worth is from a word that basically means “proof after testing.” It might be like saying that Timothy had proven character over a period of time, a sufficient amount of time. He had become a man who was shown to be dedicated as a follower of Christ and a Christian friend. Some words we could use to understand this idea better is that he was consistent, proven, time-tested, dedicated, of good character, he was stable. He could be sent out, sent away, and trusted. He would act consistent with what he had become in Christ.
In order to be proven and to demonstrate true dedication as a Christian friend, there must have been tests of that. If he is proven, there must have been testing. How do you know what a person can or cannot do if he has not been challenged? I may say I can bench-press three hundred pounds, that is easy to say, but you would be wise to say, “Show me that you can, prove it.” That would be the test.
It is the same way with character. There are tests. Daily tests. There is plenty of testing that goes on in our lives. How are we going to respond to the pressures of life? Does our character change with whatever pressures of life we face each day, or are we consistent? Paul said in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
This is what is done in the case of deacons in 1 Timothy 3:10, “deacons are to be tested.” This testing, watching, is to see who they really are. Are they the men we may think they are? Have we seen them in various situations to evaluate their character?
Timothy had been seen and evaluated, and everyone agreed, Paul and the Christians in Philippi, of his proven worth. Time and various situations had shown them that he was a dedicated Christian man, a dedicated Christian friend.
Don’t you want people around you like that? Don’t you want to know that if you fall, if you fail, if you have lost your way, if you are afraid, that there are those who are a part of the church family, the family of God, who will be there for you? I mean be there for you no matter what. Don’t you want to know that there are those around you who are proven to be dedicated friends? They were there for you last time you were in need and you know they will be there in your current time of need.
Your physical, earthly family may not be there for you. Your next-door neighbor may not have time for you, your boss may reject you, but the church people, true Christian friends, are not to be that way. Spiritual friends are dedicated friends.
Although we are primarily talking about Timothy and his dedication, proven character, proven worth, we are talking about his faithfulness in this way, it is also interesting just to note Paul’s as well. Paul could not go to the Philippians, but since he couldn’t he made sure that in his necessary absence, that someone else could go.
Sometimes our dedication to our spiritual friends may be seen in the way we get someone else, or others, involved in their lives. Maybe like Christ as He hung on the cross, when He looked down toward the apostle John and said in John 9, “Behold, your mother!” Jesus was going away, but that did not sever his love and dedication to His mother. He made sure she was cared for.
Likewise, when Jesus left this earth, left His disciples, He did not leave them alone.
25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. (John 14:25-26)
Don’t you love that? We see Christ demonstrating to us, showing us what dedication is. He has proven Himself to us. He never quits on us, never backs away, never leaves us. He’s always looking out for us, working in us and on us, protecting, providing. These things will never change. And here we are like Timothy, we can follow Him in how we then relate to one another. To whatever degree I am faithful to you and dedicated to you as a friend, or you are to me, we are reflecting the life of Jesus Christ.
This is an issue of spiritual maturity. It describes one who is walking daily with Christ Jesus. It is like those that Paul calls on in Galatians 6:1, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”
This is who we are to be: the spiritual ones, filled with the Holy Spirit, ready to go and restore, ready for the task of walking with a brother or sister, those of proven worth in the area of dedication and faithfulness to each other.
Timothy was what everyone had come to expect him to be. Everyone knew of his proven worth. What about us? Have you and I gotten to a place where we can, like Timothy, like Christ, like Paul, putting aside our own desires, sometimes selfish desires, walk with a brother or sister, ministering to and serving one another?
Have you ever just consciously done that? “My flesh, my desires are carrying me over here, but instead of going with that I will choose to go over this way to serve the needs of another.” We think we can’t, I know that! We think the pull is too strong and our desires are too great, but in Christ, in His Spirit, we can say, “I will dedicate myself in this to Christ and prove His worth by the choice I am about to make.”
And when we do that, we feel ourselves break free from our emotions that have once ruled us and we find greater satisfaction in our love and dedication to Christ.
17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. (Romans 14:17-19)
In other words, life is about much more than our physical desires that we think must be met our way. Life for us as Christians is about righteousness, peace, and joy that comes by living in the Holy Spirit. And according verse 18, life is about serving Christ, which is acceptable to God, he says, “Let us pursue what makes for peace and mutual building up.” Timothy had found the way of peace and joy in righteousness, as he lived in a way that proved his worth or proved his dedication to Christ in service to others.
Not only do we see the dedication of Christian friends in this passage, but we also see the familial nature of Christian friends.
But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel. (Philippians 2:22)
Paul describes his working relationship with Timothy in terms of family. He talks of Timothy as being like a son to him, serving with him, working with him as a son. They were like family to each other. There was a special bond between them. The church is described in the New Testament in terms of family. Christians are often referred to as “brothers.”
The writer of Hebrews says, “I appeal to you, brothers, bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly.” (Hebrews 13:22)
Paul writes, “As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.” (2 Thessalonians 3:13)
Peter says, “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.” (2 Peter 1:10)
James writes, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds” (James 1:2)
We read of our relationship with God in terms of family. In Ephesians 1:5, “he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.” We are not strangers, we are not to be as strangers to one another. Spiritual friends, Christian friends are to be as family to one another.
You may say, “You don’t know my family! I don’t want to treat others in the way my family treats me!” I know our families are sometimes not the greatest of Christian examples. But we are family with Christ as our head, we are to be family with right goals, biblical attitudes, or as John writes regarding how we are to interact as family…
14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. (1 John 3:14-16)
We are to be like family as those who will lay down our lives for each other. We are to be an ideal family. There is to be warmth among us and true love of family, the way God intends the family to be.
With all the references and family analogies that we have in the Bible that are meant to help us understand our relationship with God, and with each other, it is no wonder that Satan would work so hard to destroy the earthly picture of what family is to be. It’s no wonder that families are under such attack. Husbands and wives warring with each other, children and parents who refuse to communicate, sibling rivalries and even hatred. Families and our understanding of family can be so distorted that we can lose sight of what it means to be a proper spiritual family. The biblical analogies may confuse us because of our confusion about what we experience as an earthly family. We are to be family members as Christ Jesus has been to us. He who laid down His life for the brethren.
We have been talking about Christian friends. What it is like, or what it should be like for us to relate to one another as Christians. If we, you and me, the church, were to please God in how we relate to and respond to each other, what would that look like? What have we seen, what have Paul and Timothy demonstrated for us, what kind of example has Jesus left for us?
As spiritual friends we are to be dedicated to one another: proven worth, steady character in Christ, concerned for one another in a way that leads to committed involvement. And we are to be as family as we relate to each other: we are not mere acquaintances, certainly not strangers, but a part of a loving family, serving one another sacrificially. It is a high calling.
The question then for us would be, do our lives mirror these things well? Does our character give evidence of our dedication, and are we close and lovingly involved with each other? Since none of us are doing this perfectly, I encourage you to find ways to be the kind of spiritual Christian friend that God has called you to be.
We are a part of a magnificent body called the church. And in the church God has made provision for our care. That care comes primarily through God’s people, the community of God’s people, the church. I pray that we will embrace God’s provision for us, and be dedicated in being that provision given by God in the lives of others.
21 For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22 But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel. (Philippians 2:21-22)